KC HILITES BLOG
SNORE’s KC HiLITES Night Race Scheduled July 29-31 in Primm
By Mike Henle:
The annual KC HiLITES Midnight Special created about 40 years ago to fill a void in the Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts (SNORE) schedule is filling another void July 29-31 in Primm about 30 miles south of Las Vegas.
Following the recent exit of the SCORE Primm 300 — which was the second-longest running off-road event in Southern Nevada – SNORE moved its annual evening race to Primm where the event will be run over an 8.6-mile course.
Knowing that the SCORE event was heading to Baja, California, Mexico, SNORE went to work considering that its own date at the Indian Reservation north of Las Vegas had run into a snag considering the need of an environmental impact study.
The history of the KC HiLITES event is not only extensive but fascinating at the same time. The old-timers of SNORE – a 42 year-old sanctioning body – have countless colorful stories about running off-road cars through the desert at night.
“SNORE added the night race back in the early-1970s because there was a big hole in the schedule from the spring until the fall,” explained long-time member Kenny Freeman, Jr., who remains on the group’s board of directors. “The only way to fill the void was to run at night, so the Midnight Special was born.”
The Midnight Special has been run in several areas over the years including Searchlight, Nellis Dunes, Jean, Eldorado Valley and Ridgecrest, Calif., before this year landing in Primm where two nights of racing that will run into the wee hours each night.
In any case, the challenges of the race have been interesting whether talking with the old-timers or current drivers. From the days of former SNORE presidents Jon Block, Denny Selleck, Don Dayton, Bob MacCachren and Bert Vaughan – to name a few – the race has been a favorite.
Ruth Jensen wasn’t a driver, but she and husband, Bob, worked the SNORE event clear back in the 1970s. “I will always remember the Midnight Special because I was not only a scorekeeper in our old bus, but I was also the treasurer,” said Mrs. Jensen adding that she and her husband spent many anniversaries at the Midnight Special since they were married July 31, 1948. “I didn’t get much sleep because not only did I have to score, but since I was the treasurer, I had to get the checks ready after the race so that they were ready for the awards the following morning.”
Freeman also recalls that getting stuck in the desert was common considering that the lights used on off-road cars then actually covered only the track immediately in front of the vehicle. “You actually got tunnel vision,” Freeman said. “You’re only looking at one thing and I have rolled more than once, that’s for sure. “One thing I’ll never forget about the Midnight Special was that running at night with the lights, I learned that there were some very weird things crawling around the desert.”
Bob MaCachren, whose son, Rob, is now one of the nation’s top off-road racers, has vivid memories of the old Midnight Special.
“I ran the one in Searchlight,” said the elder MacCachren, who is now 73. “During that particular race, we all had to run 1200 motors. There were times when I wondered if we’d get up some of those hills.
“I will also remember that the prize for participating in the race was a SNORE belt buckle with turquoise pieces from a mine in Searchlight.”
Freeman’s father, Ken Sr. – who now lives just east of Cedar City, Utah – stressed that good eyesight was vital in running the Midnight Special.
“It really does create an all-new challenge,” Mr. Freeman said. “I always had good luck in the race running in the 1600 class or Class 9 with the 40 horsepower motors. You have to remember the track after seeing it during the day time.
“Otherwise, it can sneak up on you and put you out of the race.”
Former Mint 400 race director KJ Howe called the Midnight Special “the most fun race I have ever competed in.” Howe said several factors played into why he remembers the race decades later. “It was what you might call both eerie-cool,” said Howe. “I had my two-seater unlimited in the 1970s and 1980s. My co-riders included former Mint 400 Girl Merle Jensen; along with my son, Scott Howe; and my brother, Sandy.
“One year I raced Glenn Emery’s Jeep and we won our class. I was driving a big V-8 powered Jeep that was specially prepared. I will never forget the Midnight Special because it produced so many special challenges. We won the class driving a non-buggy type of vehicle.”
Howe added that the race moving to Primm will be easier for pit crew support because the track is shorter. “It will be great for spectators because of the built-in elements that you find in a short-course race,” Howe said. “Then, you also have the nearby attractions of the hotels and the associated infrastructure that Primm has to offer including a roller coaster if the race doesn’t provide enough thrills.”
Josh Daniel, of Canyon Lake, Calif., won the 2009 Midnight Special and the 2010 Battle at Primm driving a Class 1 car. “The Midnight Special is interesting because it’s run at night and your field of vision is pretty narrow,” said Daniel, 36, who owns an engine shop called Danzio Performance Engineering in Southern California. “You need to get a feel for where you’re going and look beyond your headlights as much as you can.
“In the 2009 race, we were using a 45-mile desert loop and this one is going to be much different because it’s only 8.6 miles long and it’s more of a short course race. It’s being called a desert cross race this time. We’re only going to do six loops each night and it pretty much means going as fast as you can without crashing. The hardest part is that it’s confined to such a small area and we’re really going to have to deal with the dust because it’s going to be even harder to see.”
While the Midnight Special is certainly beneficial to Primm, it is also a great way for KC HiLITES to showcase it products at the same time. Ron Pryczynski, who is the national sales manager for KC HiLITES in Williams, Ariz., said the relationship with SNORE dates back more than 30 years.
“SNORE started in 1969 and we have been around since 1970,” explained Pryczynski, who has been with the company for 12 years. “Being a lighting company, we started the whole off-road lighting industry. It’s been a good a testing ground for not only us but our customers, too. We expect this relationship to remain far into the future.”
And speaking of beneficial aspects related to the event, executives in Primm south of Las Vegas were eager to land the race after SCORE went south of the Border.
“We are always pleased to have the racers come to Primm because they bring a lot of enthusiasm with them,” said Val Moon, director of sales for Primm Valley Resort. “Racing events bring something special to our properties that other guests enjoy. A racing event is a big deal and we love to watch the excitement build on the properties that all guests enjoy.”
Races start at 9 p.m. Friday and at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Editor’s Note: Mike Henle is a Las Vegas based freelance writer who has covered auto racing for more than 40 years. His web site www.mikehenle.com focuses on various topics.
CAPTION: The Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiast KC HiLITES Midnight Special has been scheduled July 29-31 on an 8.6 mile course in Primm about 30 miles south of Las Vegas.